A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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The Jewish family behind St. Louis’ nursing school powerhouse

Jeanette, David and Alvin Goldfarb.

A St. Louis area nursing school ranked No. 1 this year by “Nursing Schools Almanac” bears the name of a man who was a philanthropist, entrepreneur and leader in the Jewish community. That man was Alvin Goldfarb.

Goldfarb School of Nursing, with campuses adjacent to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center, regularly sits atop lists of nationally ranked nursing schools. Goldfarb, who died in 2008 at age 91, would probably be pleased to see his legacy institution thrive. He was committed to quality and value in his investments. He was also a private man who preferred to support institutions quietly.

Alvin Goldfarb
Alvin Goldfarb

His contributions extended to another local institution, Washington University. Goldfarb graduated from the university in 1937. He attended the John M. Olin School of Business, located in Goldfarb Hall on the Danforth Campus. It’s often ranked among the top business schools in the country, as is the Brown School of Social Work — from which Jeanette Rudman Goldfarb, Alvin’s wife, graduated with a master’s degree in 1936.

Throughout his life, Goldfarb was committed to success in his work and giving back to the community. At the WU campus, Alvin Goldfarb Auditorium sits in the James S. McDonnell Hall in the school of arts and sciences. Nearby, the Jeanette Goldfarb Plant Growth Facility is a greenhouse that doubles as an important teaching and research hub.

Alvin Goldfarb was also a donor, director and campaign chairman of Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

Who was Alvin Goldfarb?

Goldfarb was born in St. Louis in 1917 to Morris and Sarah Goldfarb. He grew up on Leland Avenue and graduated from University City High School. After college, he joined his father’s garment manufacturing business and in 1940 struck out on his own. Goldfarb founded Worth’s Stores, which sold moderately priced women’s apparel. The timing was prescient, because more women were entering the workforce. During World War II, women proved adept at jobs that traditionally were held by men.

Worth’s eventually expanded to Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama. As the business grew, Goldfarb made it a point to be home for dinner each night and spend as much time with his family as possible. He often skipped lunch to gain an extra hour of work time. Worth Stores had a long and successful run, and Goldfarb eventually sold the chain in the 1978 to Reitman’s Ltd., a Canadian retailer founded by a Jewish family in 1936.

Alvin and Jeanette Goldfarb raised two sons and one daughter, Jane. His grandson Dave Goldberg (Jane’s son) remembers Alvin as a modest man.

“He was very private,” Dave Goldberg said. “I remember walking around the Wash U campus looking at the size of his name on various buildings. They suggested 12-inch letters and he pushed back for 6-inch letters.”

Goldberg said his grandfather didn’t play golf or care much for the country club world, instead focusing his efforts on work. However, he was a personable man.

“He had a nice laugh,” Goldberg said. “He was one of those people who spoke less and just listened. He wasn’t flashy. When he sold Worth’s, he bought a Bentley, but he never drove it anywhere. Instead, he drove grandma’s old beat-up BMW.”

A new model for nursing education

Bill Motchan

In 2007, Alvin Goldfarb pledged $5 million to help fund a building and improve education at the former Barnes-Jewish College of Nursing. Goldfarb’s gift capped off a $20 million fundraising campaign at the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to transform the college. It was renamed the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College.

Founded in 1902 as the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing, it was the first school in the U.S. accredited by the National League of Nursing. The school offers a college associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing. In 2012, Goldfarb School of Nursing opened its west campus.

Goldfarb’s decision to support nursing education stemmed from his belief that it would improve the community and affect student’s lives from scholarships and other programs.

“He thought every day someone is helped by a nurse,” Goldberg said.

The Alvin Goldfarb Endowed Nursing Education Fund continues to support that effort and provide access for nursing students to the latest technology, including a high-tech simulation lab. The school also features a new model that helps improve skills via a team approach. The program provides one Barnes-Jewish Hospital staff nurse to instruct two students throughout the term. It is designed to create a smoother transition to clinical practice.

A lasting impact for St. Louis

Goldfarb buildings and facilities at Washington University are only part of the couple’s contributions to the St. Louis community. Their gifts continue to support education initiatives, including the Alvin and Jeanette Goldfarb scholarship, an important part of the John M. Olin School of Business. The Goldfarbs were also the founding sponsors of the Scholars in Business Program.

The gift Alvin Goldfarb provided to Washington University for the construction of Goldfarb Hall was considered by the university a key factor in bringing the school into the modern era.

Beyond the nursing school and Wash U, the Alvin Goldfarb Foundation continues to support the St. Louis community in meaningful ways. With assets of nearly $155 million in the 2022 tax year, the Goldfarb Foundation provides substantial funding for the Community Impact Network, which creates opportunities for people to meet their basic needs.

The other major recipient of the foundation is Equity Homes, which provides financial support for affordable single-family homes in North St. Louis County. Those homes are not far from the former headquarters of Worth Stores in Vinita Park.

Alvin Goldfarb made sure his foundation would make a positive, lasting impact in the part of the metro area where he achieved business success.

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About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.